If you want to change the look of your outdoor patio cushions or other fabrics, you have several options. You can dye the cushion covers, or you can paint them. You can paint your cushions the old-fashioned way with a brush or use spray paint. Whatever method you choose, it's important to use paints and dyes rated for outdoor use so they don't fade in the sun or wash away when it rains.
How to Color Outdoor Fabric With Dye
Dyeing outdoor cushion covers can prove tricky. Many of these covers are composed of synthetic fibers that don't accept dye easily. The trick to working around this is to keep the dye bath hot while you work. It needs to be almost boiling at all times. Keep the dye bath at about 200 degrees Fahrenheit.
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- Remove the cushion covers or gather your other outdoor fabrics and toss them in the laundry. You should wash them well but don't worry about drying them. They're going to get wet in the dye bath, so drying them is a wasted effort.
- Prepare your work area. Keeping the water hot means keeping it on the stove, so plan on working in your kitchen. Lay down a disposable tablecloth and have plenty of paper towels handy too. You need to be prepared to catch any drips or dye accidents as soon as they happen.
- Pour about 9 gallons of water into a large pot and heat until it simmers, just before it boils. The pot must be large enough to accommodate the water and the fabric with a little wiggle room.
- Add a synthetic fabric dye like Rit DyeMore dye to your water. You need about 1 bottle of dye for every 4 pounds of fabric you're dyeing. Double the dye if you are dyeing over a dark cushion or one with a bright print.
- Add a teaspoon of dish soap to the water.
- Place your fabric in the water and stir often. Keep the water simmering while you soak the fabric. Leave the fabric in the dye bath for about 40 minutes. Be aware that the dye color looks darker when it's wet, so you may have to dye the fabric longer if it comes out of the dye bath the exact color you want before it's dry.
- Remove the fabric from the dye. Squeeze out excess dye and then rinse the fabric in cool water until the water runs clear.
- Wash the fabric with water and mild detergent. Allow it to dry and then put the covers back on your cushions.
How to Color Outdoor Fabric With Paint
Painting outdoor fabrics and cushions is easy, but it's a slow process. Just as you do when painting walls, you need to let each coat of paint dry before applying the next one. Since cushions and fabric can easily require six to seven coats, this process can take some time. You can use latex paint for easy cleanup, but paint made for exterior use is best.
- Clean your cushions by removing the cover and laundering them. If this is not an option, spray them with your garden hose to remove dirt and grime. It's much easier to paint cushion covers while they're on the cushion, so put removable covers back on the cushions after you wash them.
- Prepare your paint. To do so, combine equal parts of fabric medium, paint, and water. The fabric medium will keep your paint from getting stiff so your cushions stay soft.
- Spray the cushion with a squirt bottle of water until it's damp but not soaked.
- Apply a coat of paint to the cushion with a paintbrush. The paint is going to soak into the cushion, which is what you want.
- Let the cushion dry and then add another coat of paint. Use the same technique, wetting the cushion and then applying your next coat of paint.
- Repeat this process until the cushion is the color you want and any prints on the fabric no longer show through the paint.
How to Color Outdoor Fabric With Spray Paint
Rust-Oleum now makes spray paint for outdoor fabrics, and it's very easy to use. As is always the case with spray paint, you'll want to apply smooth, even coats. Proper technique with spray paint is crucial — without it, you will end up with splotchy results. If you're concerned, practice on a scrap piece of cardboard before you paint your outdoor fabrics.
- Wash the cushions or outdoor fabric you intend to paint and then let them dry. As is true with the latex paint, cushion covers are much easier to paint on the cushions, so put them back if you removed them for the wash.
- Prop the cushion or fabric upright against an old box or another backdrop you don't mind getting paint on. You can lay your cushions flat on the floor or out in the yard, but doing so will force you to tilt the paint can and could clog the nozzle.
- Spray the cushion with a thin layer of paint, using a steady back and forth motion about 8 inches away from the cushion. Keep spraying a bit beyond the cushion rather than stopping right at the edge. This provides full coverage and will eliminate faded edges.
- Apply as many coats of paint as needed to get the effect you want, letting the paint dry thoroughly between coats.